SEORG study shows care home residents who were involved in redecorating communal space were three times more likely to use that space than before.

Dr Craig Knight's research in space management has shown that empowering workers to develop their own workspace produced dramatic gains in productivity and well-being over the conventional 'ean' approach (high surveillance, low control, open plan).

Alex Haslam and Michelle Ryan have uncovered the phenomenon of the glass cliff whereby women (and members of other minority groups) are more likely to be placed in leadership positions which are risky or precarious.
The BBC Prison Study explored the social and psychological consequences of putting people in groups of unequal power.
Findings from the study were broadcast by the BBC and have since been published in leading scientific journals and textbooks and have also entered the core student syllabus. 

Social, Environmental and Organisational research group

Research impact

What kind of impact are we having through our research? In fact, our work is making a difference in all kinds of ways.

SEORG research on the BBC

Researchers from the SEORG have recently completed a major study in a Care Home in Taunton, looking at the effects of involving groups of residents in the redecoration of residential lounges. This will be broadcast on BBC1 as part of a 45 minute programme on Health and Ageing - "The Science of the Young Ones".

The BBC Prison Study

Alex Haslam (University of Exeter) and Steve Reicher (University of St Andrews) collaborated with the BBC to conduct a major investigation of group processes within a simulated prison environment. The study was one of the largest conducted in social psychology in the last 30 years.

Findings from the study were first broadcast by the BBC in 2002. They have since been published in leading scientific journals and textbooks and have also entered the core student syllabus. They have changed our basic understanding of how groups and power work. Find out more (opens in a new window).

The Glass Cliff

Research into the glass cliff examines what happens when women (and other minority groups) take on leadership roles. Extending the metaphor of the glass ceiling, 'the glass cliff' describes the phenomenon whereby individuals belonging to particular groups are more likely to be found in leadership positions that are associated with a greater risk of failure and criticism. Find out more on the website.

Leadership studies

Women remain a minority among those in positions of power in organisations. Recent research has suggested that the key to increasing women’s representation is increasing their ambition to rise to the top. 

Professor Michelle Ryan and former staff member Dr Kim Peters have led two studies exploring this:

Impact of online networks

Dr Louise Pendry was awarded a grant by the Economic and Social Research Council to research this with former staff member Dr Jessica Salvatore. Their work addressed questions about the psychological impact of using online networks. People are interacting online in ever increasing numbers, but how does this impact on our lives and well-being? And does it change the way we behave offline?

Psychology of organisations

The SEORG group instruct senior members of the British Armed Forces in the behaviour and psychology of organisations. We have a strong research relationship that has existed between the group and the Armed Forces for over 5 years and led to important advances in our understanding of the psychology of stress, retention, motivation and performance. Contact us for more details.

Groups are key to good health

The quality of a person’s social life could have an even greater impact than diet and exercise on their health and well-being. There is growing evidence that being a member of a social group can significantly reduce the risk of conditions like stroke, dementia and even the common cold.

Commenting on this work, Professor Alex Haslam said: “We are social animals who live and have evolved to live in social groups. Membership of groups, from football teams to book clubs and voluntary societies, gives us a sense of social identity.  This is an indispensable part of who we are and what we need to be in order to lead rich and fulfilling lives. For this reason groups are central to mental functioning, health and well-being”.

Read the full report.

How working environment affects productivity, well being and happiness

PRISM (Psychological Research into Identity and Space Management) exploits the potentially beneficial link between an individual’s self-determination of the space they occupy and their well-being. The project was originally developed around an ESRC CASE Studentship and has roots in Professor Haslam’s high profile BBC Prison Experiment of 2001. Research partners have included Somerset Care creating tangible benefits in the care sector. Working together with contracted industrial partners Ambius and Haworth the project has now gone onto show the significant productivity gains possible (28%) in office environments when staff are involved in enriching their own workspaces.